Making a Living as a Guitar Teacher Part 1

Episode 1 – making the break

So, there I was. It was March 2009. I’d been made redundant, for the second time, after twenty years in Investment Banking. And at the worst time that had ever been known in the industry too; jobs were being slashed everywhere.

So, there I sat in the study. I’d done some job-hunting online; I’d been doing some every day, registered with loads of agencies, and the outlook was gloomy.

I’d done all the job-hunting I could for the day. I tuned up a guitar, fired up a recording of an orchestra rehearsal on the PC, and started working on some material.

I could always turn pro at this, I thought.

I’d done some guitar teaching before, when I came back from living in Germany. I used to have Saturday afternoons full of students. Why couldn’t I do some more? I hadn’t done any marketing in the two years since we moved house; I dusted off my business cards.

The first time I went looking for students, it took about eight months for the first one to call me up. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to be as casual about getting students this time. I went and spoke to all the local guitar shops – both of them. On the way home, it dawned on me that I might be able to do something through Adult Education; most local colleges had loads of courses, pottery, knitting, languages, why not music? Why not guitar!?!? I dug out e-mail addresses for the County Council’s three adult education offices and wrote telling them all about me.

A couple of days later I got a reply. “We’ve got nothing for guitar in Adult Education,” they said, “why don’t you talk to mainstream?” and they gave me an e-mail address for the local Education Authority’s Music Services team. I wrote, telling them all about me.

Two weeks later, I’d got an interview with an Investment Bank for some temp work. I got the job too. Then I got an e-mail from the Music Services people. “Give us your address,” they said, “we’ll send you an application form.”

Tip number 1: Talk to your local Education Authority’s Music Services people.

Episode 2 – That 90-Minute Audition

So, it was May 2009. I’d got a job with an Investment Bank, and I’d started working there. I’d sent off the application form to the Music Services people and had more or less assumed they weren’t interested

Tip number 2: Music Services take ages to reply about things.

I got home from work one evening, and there was a letter from Music Services. It was a pretty thin envelope so I assumed it was a “Thanks, but no thanks” letter. Instead it said, “Please come for an audition and interview on this date.”

Now, I’m used to Investment Banking interviews which run for about an hour and probe into every ounce of your capabilities, motivation, leadership and practical experience and then expect you to pledge your soul to working twelve-hour days for little thanks. My interview technique was pretty hot, and I’d never failed an audition so along I went. I played “Capricho Arabe” by Francisco Tarrega, which I’d played at Grade 8, and “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams.

Tip number 3: Play something by a living composer. Examiners and Music Services people love it.

There followed ninety minutes of intense grilling about capabilities, teaching technique, motivation, leadership and practical experience, and safeguarding (including exactly what you can and can’t keep confidential from that conversation with your students.) “Right,” they said at the end, “subject to references and criminal record clearance, we’ll start working with you from September.”

Job done.

Tip number 4: Enhanced Criminal Records Clearance takes two months to come back.

Then it starts to get a bit complicated. I’ll tell you about that next time.

This advice first appeared in Volume 4 # 2 of Guitar Noise News. Sign-up for our newsletter to receive more free tips like this by email.

© 2011, Alan Green

More on Making a Living as a Guitar Teacher